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Shelf Life
Bananas and Computers

by Bamboo Dong,
I am now in a moment of my life when the most brainless comedy and action will amuse me for hours. I figure, with all the “deep” anime out nowadays, sometimes it's nice to just sit back and be able to watch something that doesn't require any thinking whatsoever. This brings me to a quirky series called Jungle wa Itsumo Hale Nochi Guu. I have yet to decipher the meaning of this series. I mean, sure, there's a profound message that develops in the series (intentional or not, I'm unsure), but it's nothing that's immediately perceptible on the surface, especially during the first few episodes. Maybe it's this quality of the series that first appealed to me. It requires no analysis, no thinking whatsoever—it's just funny. I think a lot of series are like this. The first few episodes are brainless humor or fanservice or what have you, and then the later episodes take advantage of your interest in the series by throwing in a carefully masked message. Like in Chobits, or even Mahoromatic. The problem with series like these is that the viewer is so used to having fluff on the surface that oftentimes the hidden messages remain secluded. I guess the only thing one can do is think about the series they're watching, but that kill some of the enjoyment of series whose first episodes appeal in their no-intelligence-prerequisite platforms. On the other hand, these series can be surprisingly versatile. If you want to analyze the show, there is plenty there for you to delve into. If you're interested in just skimming the surface for cheap laughs and hearty entertainment, then it's right there waiting for you. One size fits all—problem solved.

Shelf Worthy

Chobits Vol. #1: Persocom
Pioneer Animation 100 min. 1/8 $29.98/34 03/11/2003

Ever wonder why there were so many convention goers with plastic ears attached to the sides of the heads? This series is the reason why. This series hit its peak popularity a while back, but remains one of the most anticipated releases this year. The first four episodes of the series introduce viewers to a series that is cute, funny, feel-good, and chock full o' fanservice. Fresh from the rural parts of the country, college student Hideki gets his first experience of big city Tokyo and one of the first things he notices is the large number of persocoms there. Shaped like women or animals, persocoms are personal computers designed to look and act like their physical counterparts. Turns out, Hideki is lucky enough to find a persocom in the rubble heap. Enter Chii, his persocom. Right at the beginning, viewers are confronted with the question as to why she's able to run without an operating system. As the story unravels, viewers learn that there's much more to the series than originally meets the eye, including an underlying theme that first shows signs of emergence. Plot aside, the series has plenty of other good characteristics that show why it was so popular. The music is cute (especially the opening theme), the characters are fun to watch (with the exception of Sumomo, who is possibly the most annoying anime nonhuman character I've ever come into contact with), and the art is gorgeous. It's a light-hearted series with its moments of dark, introverted scenes and deep reflections. Beyond a doubt, this is one of the most layered anime series out right now, offering a show that can be enjoyed for its surface entertainment value, as well as one that can be dissected to bits and pieces. No matter the range of intellectual involvement you like to invest in your series, Chobits is definitely something worth looking into.

GTO Vol. #07
TOKYOPOP 100 min. 7/10 $29.99 03/11/2003

I really like GTO and if I only accomplish one thing in this whole column, I can only hope to infest you with the GTO bug. Even near the end of the series, GTO remains just as fresh as it started out. In this volume, Onizuka continues to land himself in a myriad of escapades involving his students, ranging from financial difficulties to a class trip to Okinawa. The episodes are funny yet carry emotions and meanings, and all around just make for great TV. It's exciting to watch the characters' relationships grow with one another as well as track each person's personal changes. It's a feel good series, filled with moral messages, tales of hope and what have you, masked in comedy. It's another one of those series that you can watch on various levels. On the one hand, it's a feel-good, learn about the nature of the humans around you type. On the other hand, it's just pure entertainment. You can never go wrong with GTO. Besides, anything with a L'Arc~en~Ciel theme song has to be good, right? If you've been following this series, then there's no excuse for you to not buy this volume. If you've been neglecting this wonderful series, it's never too late to see what all the hubbub is about. You won't regret it.

Revolutionary Girl Utena Vol. #5: Darkness Beckoning
Central Park Media 75 min. 5/10 $29.98 03/11/2003

This is one of the coolest volumes of Utena I've ever seen. I won't spoil you to anything, but I guess what's written on the back of the box is able to sufficiently explain my position. Well, Utena stumbles upon a building where a hundred students died years ago in some kind of eerie experiment. Enough said. Utena is a fantastic series, and this season is no exception. It's more varied in its episode content than the first season was, and provides for a boatload of entertainment. The only issue I can find with it is the price. I liked it a lot better when CPM released seven episodes on one disc for a higher price, but there's no use complaining. Utena is Utena, even if it's only three episodes on a disc. Luckily, the series is good so you won't be wasting your money on it. The music is beautiful and though the animation gets reused, it's still a good series to spend your hard-earned money on. It's from the director of Sailor Moon, so if you liked that thing, then you'll love this series. It's definitely better shoujo than Sailor Moon any day.

Steel Angel Kurumi: Encore Vol. #5
ADV Films 60 min. 5/? $19.98 03/11/2003

After the TV series was made, the producers decided to make a short OVA, which is definitely a must-have for those who enjoyed the series. Taking place right after the last episode of the TV series, this OVA shows viewers the lives of all the characters after the finale. This OVA is definitely cute and funny enough to serve as the perfect “follow-up” of the series. There's a particularly amusing part of the series where all of the girls decide to hold a competition to receive a kiss from Nakahito, as well as other semi-frivolous scenes that give the show a perfect “happy” ending. It's nothing particularly Earth shattering, but if you're willing to look at it deep enough, there are certainly moral messages that can be found in the episodes. All in all, it's the perfect addition to anyone's Steel Angel Kurumi collection, and it's sure a good enough reason to check out the DVDs that came before it.

Rental Shelf

Nightmare Campus Vol. #1
Anime 18 40 min. 1/5 $29.99 03/11/2003

Before I start talking about this, there's something that confuses me about this release. A few years back, Anime 18 released a Nightmare Campus DVD set, with all five episodes for a decent price. And now they're releasing each specific one on a DVD for ¾ of the price of what the complete collection cost? Is it just me or is that absolutely ridiculous?! Hence, the rental shelf, because you'd be crazy if you wanted to buy each individual episode separately. Anyway, Nightmare Campus is just about as good as any hentai series can get. Naturally, it has some of the elements you'd expect from hentai, i.e. “look at that girl walking down the street. GAH! Where'd her clothes go?” It also has something that hentai isn't heavily known for—an engaging plot. Famous in its genre for its erotic horror, Nightmare Campus definitely has enough style and flair to be enjoyable viewing. The animation is decent, as is the art, but what gives it the most appeal is that first element—its story. It's highly engrossing, more than you would think it could be, and overall, I'm impressed. Even for one episode, the story packs enough punch to keep you still watching. But hey, if you like it and want to buy it, I have two words for you: DVD Collection.

Crying Freeman Vol. #1: Portrait of a Killer
ADV Films 100 min. 1/? $29.98 03/11/2003

Who'd think that four episodes could pack in so much story? With a story line extensive enough it could easily stretch over half of a series, the four episodes of Crying Freeman on this disc are fast paced and action packed. Yo Hinamura was a pottery artist who was brainwashed by the 108 Dragons, a Chinese gang who trained him to be the deadliest assassin in the country. Because of the tears he sheds after each mission, he is tabbed Crying Freeman. One day, he meets a beautiful woman, who will come to play a crucial role in his life. If nothing else, this series has a powerful story pushing it along and the first disc kicks it off without missing a beat. The story is quite violent, though, but it's done so tastefully that it doesn't cheapen the series at all. In fact, one of the only downsides to the series is the pacing, as it would have done it well to slow the pace a bit. Other than that, it's an interesting and exciting show that is sure to assuage any feelings of action hunger anyone might have. Try it out before you buy it though—even though it's a good series, it's not for everyone. Besides, do you really want that hideous DVD cover sitting on your shelf?

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Vol. #1
Super Techno Arts 1/6 $29.99 w/Box $44.98 03/11/2003

I tried playing JoJo's Bizarre Adventure awhile ago. Of course, it was all in Japanese so I didn't get very far. Luckily, this OVA series has given me enough interest in the franchise to appreciate it in any platform, be it game, anime, or manga. The story involves a group of “stand users,” who use a Tarot card like thing that gives them special powers. Interestingly, the damage that they deal unto others is felt by them as well, so it's not your typical “I'm gonna level up and 0wnz0r you” deal. Naturally, the good guys have to battle against a super evil stand user who, naturally, is more powerful than them. Surprisingly though, this series is pretty interesting. It's action packed and the fight scenes are definitely fun to watch. If you like the video game, then you have absolutely no reason to not watch this. Even if you have had no prior exposure to the game or the manga, you can still check this out. At the very least, it's brainless entertainment for an entire episode.

Sukeban Deka
ADV Films 100 min. 1/1 $19.98 03/11/2003

Have you ever tried to describe the plot of an anime series to someone only to have them stare at you for a few moments, turn around, and walk away? This is one of those series. Sukeban Deka is about a girl who's a juvenile delinquent, but for some reason, the authorities need her to go fight underground high school organized crime. For some unexplained reason, she has pink hair in world of normal haired people and goes around kicking people's butts with a yo-yo that doubles up as a badge. And it's all done in as deadpan and serious of a manner that can be envisioned. Based on an 80s live action series, it's a cute show, and while it's a tad bizarre, to say the least, it's pretty fun to watch. The characters are a fun group of people, the animation's not bad, and the action-drama angle is done pretty well. In fact, just picture you're favorite weird Asian action drama done in celluloid and you end up with a pretty fair representation of Sukeban Deka. It's just one of those things that have to be watched.

Descendants of Darkness: Devil's Song
Central Park Media 75 min. 2/? $29.98 03/11/2003

In these episodes, a violinist gets possessed by a demon to make his skills drastically increase, but before the detective can get the demon, the demon gets him. There's a lot of potential in this volume to develop the relationship between the two characters and it's done rather well. The animation in this series is gorgeous, as is the dark music. All around, it's just a good series, and the episodes on this disc uphold the quality of the series well. The only beef I can sense with the series at all is that it only represents a small portion of the manga series, as it would've helped with the flow of the series, but other than that, it's makes for a good experience. It's definitely one of the nice releases in the “hunting down demons” genre, which is a big plus. Like vampires? Like demons? Like dark gothic anime? Descendants of Darkness is the one for you.

Card Captor Sakura Vol. #14
Pioneer Animation 100 min. 14/18 $29.98 03/11/2003

Ahh… approaching the end with no end in sight. Well, there's still got a few more DVDs to get there. Until then, it's good old mahou shoujo fun for everybody. This time, Sakura gets into a slightly different set of adventures, like being drowned in a swarm of sheep entering an Alice in Wonderland world that lets her see everyone's true feelings. The great thing about Card Captor Sakura is that no matter how many episodes you've watched, each one is still as fresh and fun to watch as the first. The animation recycling is kept to a minimum and the use of an episode pattern is limited as well. True, this volume could fit in just as well somewhere else in the series, but nevertheless, it's a good way to forget about the world and immerse yourself into light-hearted anime and drown out your sorrows. Hey, no one's ever too old for this kind of stuff.

Zone of Enders Dolores i Vol. #3: A Prelude to War
ADV Films 100 min. 4/6 $29.98 03/11/2003

Is the character design slick or what? The adventures of the Link family continue with people chasing them and what have you. Based on one of the side quests for the Zone of Enders game, this series is mildly entertaining. I can't say it's anything spectacular, but as far as space-driven series like these go with people landing in unruly situations, it's always amusing to watch just to see what kind of nonsense they'll get stuck in next. It's certainly not a release I would hold my breath for, but if it's put in front of me, I'll gladly watch it. So, I guess if you're a ZOE fan, then you'll get a massive kick out of this. But for you others, it's just one of those series that's just there. It's good, but in the face of other releases, there might be other things better worth your time.

Perishable Item – Check expiration date for validity

Gall Force Collection Central Park Media 260 min. 1/1 $74.99 03/11/2003
Gall Force 2: Destruction Central Park Media 50 min. 1/1 $19.99 03/11/2003
Gall Force 3: Stardust War Central Park Media 62 min. 1/1 $19.99 03/11/2003
Gall Force: Eternal Story (Remastered) Central Park Media 86 min. 1/1 $19.99 03/11/2003
Rhea Gall Force (Remastered) Central Park Media 60 min. 1/1 $19.99 03/11/2003

Well, well, well… Look what CPM dragged out of the dark recesses of their closet. Gall Force, a show that screams the decade that it was made in louder than any series ought to have the right to. Gall Force was quite a popular OVA back in the day when everyone enjoyed predictable 80s science fiction shows that had zero character development and carload after carload of pointless story that built up to more pointless story. Quite honestly, I could give you a quick rundown of what happens in the first few minutes of the story and you'd be able to fill in the blanks. Let's play a game shall we? _______ and ______ have been fighting for generations. Suddenly, a hidden threat appears and they must fight it! Only one person can save the day! ______ is a ditzy _____ who ______ and ______ the world. ___ years have passed, but _____ is still going on. _____ must once again save the day against a giant _____ that ______all of ______ leaving only ______ to avenge _________. She meets ____ a ____ who _____ and then____ the _____ until ____ is _____! Sadly, no matter what words you put into any of the blanks, you'll find that you've already seen it. Course, it's not its fault since it probably came out before any of the series you're thinking of. That's the problem. It's an 80s show that just no longer has the appeal it used to. Back then people liked it, but now? CPM, let it go back to sleep. For those of you that want that old time nostalgia back or were diehard fans of this show—this was released just for you. Everyone else—it's just not worth it. Times change, and sometimes it's more obvious than other times.

Stepmother's Sin
Anime 18 65 min. 1/1 $29.98 03/11/2003

The first time I saw this, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. Then I realized maybe I should just run away. Maybe if I watched more porn or something, I'd be used to this kind of stuff, but this was just messed up. Some kid's dad gets a new fiancé, so what's a normal kid to do? Certainly not make her his sex slave like this screwed up kid does. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who enjoy this type of … mom and son storyline. It's like, a modern day Oedipus, right? So you could say it's almost in the spirit of the classics, except for the fact that this show is still scary. Like I said, maybe if I watched more porn in my spare time, I'd be more used to these kinds of situations instead of wanting to hit the screen with a morality stick. It's not the age difference that matters; that I don't care about. But him, his dad, his future mo—I digress. I'll stick to the kinds of neutral things that make me not have to think about this release. Animation: hentai level, so it's not too bad. Music: could be better. Language: subtitled only. Plot: not much. Character development: none. What else can I say except advise you to keep this as far away from children and those with pure hearts as humanly possible.

Pokemon Johto League Champions: Collector's Edition Vol. #1/Vol. #2
Pioneer Animation 155 min. 1/2/? $19.98 03/11/2003

When I saw this release, I couldn't believe my eyes. People still watch Pokemon? I thought that fad was completely over, but I guess I was wrong. Well, in these adventures, Ash et al go off to the Johto League Pokemon Champions, where along the way they meet up with Pokemon-esque adventures and fight monsters and gain moral lessons and have kid's show-size self reflections. If you're a Pokemon fan, then I suppose this would appeal to you, but in all honesty, I see no reason why you would feel the need to purchase any of these discs unless you had a child who was a rabid Pokemon fan. Sure, sure, those little critters are some of the cutest things in the world, but is it really necessary for you to have Pokemon in your anime library? Well, if you're one of those weirdos who haven't quite gotten over the Pokemon bug yet, you're in luck because at 7 episodes a disc, it's definitely a good deal. If only you'd fork over the extra money to get a better series…

Kirby: Escargoon Squad
Funimation Productions 60 min. 4/? $19.95 03/11/2003

Games like Kirby confuse me. Pink cute things running around saving the world from other equally cute things. It makes as much sense as Italian plumbers running around a world stepping on mushrooms and shooting at football players that throw baseballs. game aside, the anime is just as pointlessly cute as, well, the game. The plot's there, of course, but do you really want to watch an anime series based on Kirby when you could just play the game yourself? It's never as much fun watching someone else play, so hey, abandon this and go back to the real game.

Dragonball Z TV Vol. #86: Kid Buu: A New Beginning
Funimation Productions 62 min. $24.95 03/11/2003

Doesn't Funimation release the box set of every set of episodes every now and then? They do? Oh well then I won't need to argue my point. If it's cheaper to buy the boxset, like DBZ always is, it's best to just do that. Nothing ever gets accomplished in the series in just one DVD anyway.

Well, looks like that's it for today. Lot of releases this week, but what else can you expect from the modern day anime industry? Why, back in my day… well, you've already heard the story. Anyway, enjoy this week's anime. In the meantime, I'll be groaning on my bed from too much DDR.

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